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Survey Finds Support for a 30Mbps Broadband Universal Service Obligation

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 476
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The most recent survey of 1,701 ISPreview.co.uk readers, which was conducted between 13th July and 4th September 2017, has found that 82.8% of respondents support the UK Government’s proposal to introduce a 10Mbps+ USO for broadband but 77.7% would prefer a minimum speed of 30Mbps+.

Fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks are already estimated to cover around 93%+ of premises in the United Kingdom and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme predicts that this could reach 98% by 2020, which leaves around 2% in predominantly rural areas (plus some disadvantaged urban spots) to suffer from slow connectivity; this is where the USO will focus.

The bulk of the legally-binding Universal Service Obligation (USO) will be delivered via fixed line broadband networks (e.g. KCOM (Hull only) and BT), although the Government has previously hinted that Wireless and Satellite technologies could also play a role. However, most respondents to our online poll were less than supportive of the Satellite approach.

The Government plans to implement a legally-binding 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, do you support this?
Yes – 82.8%
No – 17.1%

Should Satellite be included as a USO technology?
No – 57.4%
Yes – 27.6%
Unsure – 14.8%

Should Fixed Wireless be included as a USO technology?
Yes – 59.8%
No – 26.2%
Unsure – 13.8%

Do you think the USO should be set at the higher rate of 30Mbps?
Yes – 77.7%
No – 15.3%
Unsure – 6.8%

The delivery of a 10Mbps USO will certainly be a lot cheaper (estimates from £180m and up to £1bn) to roll-out than 30Mbps (from £400m and up to £1.4bn), although it’s feared that the final policy may water down other important aspects of service such as upload speed (very important for social network apps and the cloud etc.) and the need for fast connection latency.

The government should also be careful about adopting cheap quick-fix USO solutions like Satellite, which appear to lack wide public support and suffer from problems with slow peak-time performance, small / expensive data allowances and painfully slow latency. On the other hand there are some extremely remote areas where Satellite may truly be the only viable option (Satellite is predicted to focus on around 0.3% of UK premises).

A recent voluntary proposal from BT revealed a 10Mbps USO that is estimated to cost (private investment) around £450m to £600m, which means that consumers on Openreach’s network could expect to help fund it by paying a slightly higher service charge (Ofcom estimated up to 16p extra a month on service rental).

Back in 2015 we asked readers if they would accept a small increase (around £1 per month) in the price of their broadband service in return for a considerably slower 2Mbps USO (the 10Mbps plan was only announced last year). The results revealed that 49.8% said “No“, while 42% answered “Yes” and the remaining 9.3% were undecided. But it now looks like the proposed 10Mbps USO will be much cheaper than feared to implement.

However the fixed line upgrades proposed under BT’s plan won’t be completely finished until around Dec 2021 or 2022 and Ofcom may need to make some regulator tweaks to support the needed LR-VDSL technology. On top of that Scotland is fearful of the impact that it could have on their own plans for universal provision of 30Mbps+ broadband by 2021 (here), although those have yet to be fleshed out.

A final decision could be made before the end of this year or during early 2018, but for now the speed looks set to remain stuck at 10Mbps for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile this month’s new survey asks whether the possibility of losing your fixed line phone number would discourage you from switching ISPs? Vote Here.

NOTE: ISPreview.co.uk surveys are likely to receive a higher proportion of tech-savvy respondents than most, although the majority of our visitors are normal consumers (i.e. they come to this site for help and assistance with basic broadband problems / questions or when hunting for a new ISP).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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4 Responses
  1. NGA for all

    The survey should include a choice on whether BDUK/LA get to finish their work before the B-USo is set. Parliaments frustration is understood, it is no different nor better informed than the call to split Openreach from BT.
    The resource fulfilling the B-USO or BDUK activity is the same, but BDUK work will deliver more FTTP in rural.
    BT have promised Wales Gov the capacity to order FoD(FTTP-GPON) at every exchange.
    Scotland R100 ambition needs to take precedence over the lesser 10Mbps ambition
    The £150m (DUP/Conservative election agreement for 8-100k premises equals ultrafast using Fibre extensions.
    The BT offer in response to a mis-informed Parliament needs to be re-set around how the £463m Capital Deferral can be used to maximise FTTP in rural.

    • Steve Jones

      BT’s USO promise is clearly predicated on what’s left over after BDUK roll-out (indeed, it will be dependent on much of the infrastructure put in by BDUK).

      As for maximising the gainshare money (and the substantial savings made on deployment to date), that’s in the hands of the local projects. Maybe they need a hurry-up from central government, or some central direction, but BDUK is set up with a degree of local autonomy.

      Clearly there is going to be more FTTP in the later phases of BDUK, but I also expect to see a lot of infill cabinets too (and the latter would, with LR-VDSL make the USO gap smaller).

      A 30mbps USO would, of course, be a rather different matter. LR-VDSL might stretch to that speed at 2km from the cabinet, but any more would require deeper fibre or, maybe, fixed wireless.

    • NGA for all

      Steve, There is nothing clear about it. Ofcom/Analysis Mason modelled data based on 2016 numbers. The adjustment to the WLA Price control is based on these numbers.

      The B-USO as stated is a retail ISP proposition, not something Openeach can respond too but someone has.

      The B-USO has a 2017 start date on it to be met by 2020, so the B-USO could as presented bring BDUK work to an early end.

  2. FibreFred

    I’m sure if you had asked if the USO should be 50, 80, 100Mbps the higher number would have come out tops 😉

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